Sept 10 - Ford Europe CEO Stephen Odell talks to Reuters at the Frankfurt car show about Europe's difficult car market. (ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION)
(ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION) Automakers have been hammered by Europe's prolonged economic downturn, with sales falling sharply and profits suffering even more because of overcapacity. But broad signs of stabilisation - even in some of the region's hardest hit economies like Italy and Spain, where car sales have plunged some 50 percent since the 2008 financial crisis - are raising hopes that better times are on the way. Despite that Ford European boss Stephen Odell has cautioned against excessive optimism. He told reuters while car sales in western Europe appeared to be steadying at around 13-13.5 million units this year, that was still down about 5 million from their peak and there was no prospect of returning to those highs anytime soon. He also refused to comment on reports that Ford's CEO Alan Mullaly may be a possible replacement for Steve Ballmer at Microsoft.